Byron Moreno was 34 when he took part in the 2002 World Cup. But what looked like a very promising career ended prematurely and in a mess.
Byron Aldemar Moreno Ruales officiated two matches at the 2002 World Cup finals. The last one, Korea vs Italy in the first knock-out round, ended in controversy. Moreno sent off Italian striker Francisco Totti and disallowed an Italian goal. Korea won 2-1 with a (then) golden goal.
The Italians were outraged, they accused him of being bought, others said he was told by FIFA to let Korea win. A loss would have meant both host countries would have to leave the tournament prematurely.
Many protests followed and some Italians even threatened to sue him. Moreno defended himself, said Totti dived and deserved the second yellow.
In Ecuador they stood by their referee. Moreno was given a standing ovation when he took charge of his first domestic fixture after the tournament.
But the honeymoon didn't last long. In September 2002 Moreno was suspended for 20 matches and placed under investigation by the Ecuador football authorities after his handling of a first division match Liga de Quito - Barcelona de Guayaquil.
Near the end of the 13 minutes (!) of injury time, hosts Liga de Quito managed to score two goals winning 4-3. As it happens, at that time Moreno was running for a place in the Quito city council and the Barcelona president claimed that it was unethical for Moreno to continue refereeing during the run-up to the poll. Quito voters would be his voters.
But there were more reasons for his suspension:
The refereeing commission were unhappy with Moreno's match report in which he allegedly gave false information.
Moreno awarded two disputed penalties, sent off two players and caused confusion by first awarding a goal and then disallowing it.
He signaled six minutes of injury time but had them play 13.
'He's gone from hero to villain in three months,' wrote El Comercio an Ecuasor newspaper, which went on to demanded foreign referees for major matches.
Moreno also lost his FIFA badge.
I prefer to die
May 2003, on his 3rd match after the ban, Moreno was suspended again. He dismissed three Deportivo Quito players in an away match against Deportivo Cuenca.
A month later he resigned, at the age of 36. He retired because of what he thought were unreasonably low marks for his performances. With bad marks he would never get his FIFA badge back.
He is quoted saying: "I prefer to die standing up than to live kneeling down."
(one of the many sources: wikipedia)
September 2010 Byron Moreno was caught trying to smuggle 6 kilos of heroin into the US.
From 1996 until 2002.